This past Friday night, at the wonderful community exchange which was Premiere at Film Row not only did I get to hear some fantastic Okie-grown music, experience some fascinating art, eat fabulous crepes, and enjoy the fact that it was all sponsored by kindly lawyers who want to foster excellent experiences in Oklahoma City, I also got to meet the one-man phenomenon known as Orange Rex.
My lovely buddy L. and I were enjoying our delicious crepes and the musical stylings of Tulsa-based duo Desi and Cody when I noticed a man dressed in orange walking around…with half of his mustache and goatee shaved off.
In between wondering why I have never taken up my dearly departed Aunt Lorene’s habit of carrying her own silverware (plastic forks are radically inefficient for cutting through crepes), and wishing I had picked up some napkins (it wasn’t a problem in the end—it’s a shame to waste even a drop of good balsamic vinegar, so licking your fingers is allowed), I found myself itching to know the reason for this individual’s facial hair format.
Lovely Buddy L knows what she’s getting into when she goes places with me, so she didn’t bat an eye when I gestured to this guy and said, “Okay…tell me why.”
He introduced himself as Orange Rex (which cemented my desire to be his friend) and said that it was just something he did. Something he’s done for years, and yes…it’s a conversation starter.
Following that explanation, Orange Rex (who is a fire-breather, juggler, entertainer, and general bon vivant) talked to me and my friend for what may have been at least a half hour—and it was one of the most incredible conversations I’ve had on this Earth with another human being.
He voiced his opinion on the overwhelming commodification of even the most basic areas of life due to the extreme imbalance of wealth in our world, and also shared his ideas about how to fix some of it (and this isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky musing—he has a semi-solid plan for actually doing it during his retirement years).
He related how his mustache-goatee schtick wasn’t appreciated by his grandmother while she was alive. And instead of figuratively flipping her the bird and only concentrating on his right to do what he wants with his own face, he considered her viewpoints, and began his practice of shaving it all off at Thanksgiving, and growing a full beard from then until Christmas. A habit he continues to this day, even though his grandmother has passed, as a sort of sabbatical from selfishness; in his own words, “I get a lot of attention all year. That’s a season that sort of needs to be about other things, and I figure it’s a good time to concentrate on others.”
He held forth on ALL KINDS of things–I seriously wish I had been recording it–but the single most important bit of wisdom I heard him give was his description of how he gives his 17yo daughter a few bucks every week to take herself out on a date.
And he believes that everyone without a significant other should do the same. Be your own significant other, and treat yourself. (Yes, that’s a veiled Parks and Recreation reference. I’m individualizing Orange Rex’s sage advice with the help of my own internal lexicon.)
I was blown away.
Not just by his openness and willingness to share all of these things with a total stranger (which I love, and which I think the world needs), but by the fact that our interaction was made possible just by being at the same place. (If you’re grinning here and thinking to yourself, “Jill, you can have that experience just by talking to folks who are high at concerts”, then I would agree with you, and add that I don’t discriminate…high folks can sometimes make the deepest observations and are often excellent conversationalists, because they’re not worried about looking too eager, or appearing foolish. We could all act a little more like high folks, in my opinion, and be better off.)
This opportunity for connection is one of my best arguments for encouraging the support of “local” endeavors, whether it’s small farms, boutiques, or home grown bands. Yes, it’s good for the immediate economy, and we need to remember that we’re an economic ecosystem, but more than that…we’re a community. And the benefits of community are myriad.
We need connection, as human beings. Some people more than others, and sometimes we need it at specific times in our lives.
But it needs to be kept up. If you want it to be there when you need it, you need to support it continually.
And it can go beyond just the basics of “I want fun things to do on a regular basis, right outside my front door”, or “I need to have a social network of local contacts in case I ever need to look for another job”; we can make human connections with others who live and work right next to us. Connections that can lift us up and encourage us, when we need it. Connections that can remind us that not only are we not alone in the world, we’re not alone in our immediate vicinity.
The Internet is one of the most powerful inventions of our lifetime. Online social media has been a boon for connection, but as much as it has opened up communication opportunities for humans, it also has the potential to close us off to our local, in person, real life community, if we don’t watch it. I believe one of the best uses of those tools is the organization of local activity. (In other words, for the love of Pete, don’t stop reading my blog, or following me on Twitter.)
So yes, buy local, sell local, listen local…but above all, don’t forget to engage local.